I love college football. With the 2012 Draft in the books, being a crazed college football fan and NFL Draft fanatic, my sick mind naturally went to which players I will have the honor of scouting and picking apart during the 2012 NCAA football season. Listed below are the players that I am looking forward to watching the most during the upcoming college football season, and the players who we will be discussing at length as the 2013 NFL Draft approaches, if the Mayans were wrong and mother earth continues to spin. Next up on our 2012 College Football Season Preview, here are the top Wide Receivers in the country:
2012 NCAA Football Preview: Top Wide Receivers:
Justin Hunter, Junior (6’4 200 lbs) Tennessee – I think that Justin Hunter will be the top wide receiver in college football in 2012, with stud quarterback Tyler Bray throwing him the ball, if he is able to stay healthy. Hunter tore his ACL in Tennessee’s third game in 2011 and missed the rest of the season, but before he was injured he has caught 13 passes for 314 yards and 2 touchdowns, IN TWO GAMES. Look over those stats again, the kid is a home run threat with size, who is a threat to score whenever he has the ball in his hands. In his first two years at Tennessee (really a year and two games) Hunter has caught 33 passes for 726 yards and 9 touchdowns, absolutely ridiculous numbers. If Hunter bounces back from the knee injury and is as productive with one of the top quarterback prospects in the country throwing him the ball, the duo could put up huge numbers in 2012.
Robert Woods, Junior (6’1 180lbs) USC – Woods may be the most polished wide receiver we have seen in years at the college level, he simply understands how to get open on every single play. He combines precision route running with incredible hands and good speed, which is shown in his jaw dropping numbers last season (111 receptions 1292 yards and 15 touchdowns). In the Trojans season opener against Minnesota in 2011, Woods had 11 receptions for 115 yards and 3 touchdowns IN THE FIRST HALF. He finished that game with 17 receptions for 177 yards and 3 TDs, breaking two USC record in the process. I expect the USC offense to light up the scoreboard in 2012 and be a contender for the national title led by Woods, quarterback Matt Barkley and fellow receiver Marquise Lee (mentioned below).
Keenan Allen, Junior (6’3 205lbs) California – A player with a nice combination of size and speed, Allen is coming off a monster 2011 sophomore season, where he caught 98 passes for 1343 yards and had 6 touchdowns, while going over 100 yards receiving in five of his first six games. His decline later in the season was more due to problems at quarterback than his own performance, and despite missing spring practice due to ankle surgery, he is on track for a big 2012 season which will see a more consistent performance and more touchdowns.
Marquess Williams, Junior (6’3 181) Washington State – As both a freshman and Sophomore at WAZZU, the tall lean receiver with speed to burn eclipsed the 1000 yard mark, a rare feat for such a young player. As a freshman in 2010, Williams caught 55 passes for 1006 yards and 6 touchdowns, then he followed that up with a sophomore campaign where he caught 88 passes for 1388 yards and 12 touchdowns, showing improvement. If Williams continues to produce at this rate, he should become a household name and continue his meteoric rise up draft boards.
Terrence Williams, Senior (6’3 190lbs) Baylor – Finally our first senior makes the list. It will be interesting to see how Williams performs during his senior season, because he will be the focus of the opposing defense without Heisman Winning Quarterback Robert Griffin III slinging him he football and Kendall Wright drawing attention across the field from him, as both players were selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Williams is still a great prospect with good size, who had strong production at Baylor (59 catches for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011), but it will be interesting to see if his production keeps up as Baylor rebuilds their offense.
Marqise Lee, Sophomore (6’1 200lbs) USC – The blue chip recruit got off to a relatively quiet start to his freshman year as teammate Robert Woods (mentioned above) received most of quarterback Matt Barkley’s attention in the early going. That all changed when Lee exploded at the end of the 2011 season, in his final four games of his freshman season Lee caught a ridiculous 39 passes for 609 yards and six touchdowns. Again, that was in the FINAL FOUR GAMES! He finished his impressive freshman year catching 73 passes for 1143 yards and 11 touchdowns, and showed great chemistry with Barkley, which should continue in a monster 2012 season for the Trojan offense.
Tavon Austin, Senior (5’9 176lbs) West Virginia – The diminutive Austin is extremely quick and explosive, he knows how to get open, and is elusive after the catch. As a junior at WVU, Austin caught 101 passes for 1186 yards and 8 touchdowns, while adding an 80 yard touchdown run against Rutgers. He will be the top receiving option for the Mountaineers, who also return dynamic quarterback Geno Smith, and should be explosive on offense. Austin reminds me of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, as he also is an excellent return man, with three career special teams touchdowns.
Cobi Hamilton, Senior (6’3 210lbs) Arkansas – His 2011 numbers do not leap off of the page (34 catches 542 yards 4 touchdowns) however Arkansas lost their top wide receiving options (Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Joe Adams) to the NFL Draft and star quarterback Tyler Wilson needs a new favorite target that he is comfortable with in the passing game. The most experienced receiver on the Arkansas roster, who happens to posses elite size and speed, is Cobi Hamilton and I think he is primed for a breakout year in 2012.
Da’Rick Rodgers, Junior (6’3 215lbs) Tennessee – Vols quarterback Tyler Bray should have no shortage of weapons this season lead by the return of Justin Hunter from injury (mentioned above) and Da’Rick Rodgers, who was already playing well when Hunter was healthy (had exactly 100 yards in both games that Hunter played in 2011) but excelled as the team’s primary receiver and big play option. As a sophomore Rodgers caught 67 passes for 1040 yards and 9 touchdowns, and his number would have been better if Bray did not miss time due to injuries, obviously without their quarterback the Tennessee passing offense sputtered. Rodgers and Hunter should combine for the of the most dangerous receiving tandems in the NCAA next season, and quarterback Tyler Bray and the Tennessee offense should be able to score on anyone in the country, the Volunteers are a team I will be keeping a close eye on in the fall.
Marcus Davis, Senior (6’4 228lbs) Virginia Tech – The Virginia Tech offense is going to have some serious size to it in 2012, quarterback Logan Thomas is 6’6 254lbs and his top receiving target, Davis goes 6’4 228lbs. Davis was a former quarterback and made the transition to wide receiver well, he is a big target and dangerous weapon in the red zone who caught 30 passes for 510 yards and 5 Touchdowns last season, and I expect the Hokies passing attack to be much improved in 2012. We know Davis will impress at the 2013 NFL Combine, he has a 44 inch vertical leap and runs a 4.37 40 yard dash, he needs to show a little more of these physical skills on the field.
Kenny Stills, Junior (6’1 190lbs) Oklahoma – In each of Stills first two seasons with the Sooners, he caught exactly 61 passes, but got more production out of those receptions as a sophomore in 2011 (849 yards and 8 touchdowns). Stills missed two games in 2011 and I expect his numbers to increase dramatically in a bounce back year for quarterback Landry Jones (he needs one to recoup his draft stock) and the Oklahoma offense. If Jones can get back to his 2010 form and decrease mistakes, expect a big year out of Still, who will be his go to receiver.
Dorial Green-Beckham, Freshman (6’6 228lbs) Missouri – The only freshman I am including on the list because he should be an instant impact player on the collegiate level, Green-Beckham is an absolute Man-Child in the mold of Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Many scouts had Green-Beckham listed as the number one overall recruit in the country in 2011, he could have gone anywhere in the country, but decided to stay close to home and attend Mizzou. As a senior in high school, Green-Beckham caught 119 passes for 2233 yards and 24 touchdowns, and became the all time national leader in receiving yards. He is being called the best receiving prospect since Randy Moss, and should instantly become one of the most feared wideouts in the country, expect big production.